Mindfulness courses conducted in a group setting and led by a teacher have been found to be effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression in adults for at least six months, as revealed by a study conducted by the University of Cambridge. The study analyzed data from 13 trials and discovered that mindfulness-based programs were beneficial regardless of age, gender, or educational level. However, it should be noted that the study did not establish the effectiveness of mindfulness apps.
According to a recent analysis of data from 13 studies, adults who voluntarily participate in mindfulness courses are less likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression for a minimum of six months after completing the programs compared to those who do not participate.
The University of Cambridge researchers examined individuals who took part in group-based, teacher-led mindfulness courses offered in community settings. The results of the study, published in the journal Nature Mental Health, suggest that similar teacher-led programs should be encouraged in workplaces and educational institutions to help prevent the development of mental health problems among their members.
Lead researcher Dr. Julieta Galante, who conducted the research while at the University of Cambridge, stated, “This study is the highest quality confirmation so far that the in-person mindfulness courses typically offered in the community do actually work for the average person.”
The mindfulness courses included in the study are defined as practices that involve paying attention deliberately and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experiences in the present moment. These courses, known as mindfulness-based programs (MBPs), incorporate meditation, body awareness, and modern psychology techniques to reduce stress, improve well-being, and enhance mental and emotional resilience. They are conducted in groups led by mindfulness teachers who facilitate reflection and sharing over multiple one-to-two-hour sessions.
Previous research on the effectiveness of MBPs has yielded mixed results. The Cambridge researchers aimed to confirm the impact of MBPs on psychological distress, which encompasses symptoms of anxiety and depression and other unpleasant mental or emotional experiences. They analyzed data from 2,371 adults who participated in trials assessing the effectiveness of MBPs. Approximately half of the participants were randomly assigned to attend eight-week mindfulness programs consisting of one to two-and-a-half hour sessions per week, while the remaining participants did not attend the programs. The study revealed that MBPs led to a small to moderate reduction in psychological distress, with 13% more participants experiencing benefits compared to those who did not attend MBPs.
The researchers found that factors such as existing psychological distress, age, gender, educational level, and mindfulness disposition did not affect the effectiveness of MBPs.
While mindfulness apps have gained popularity, researchers remain uncertain whether it is the practice of mindfulness itself or the in-person group work with a teacher that reduces psychological distress. The evidence base for the effectiveness of apps is significantly smaller compared to in-person programs with teachers and groups.
Dr. Galante, now the Deputy Director of the Contemplative Studies Centre at the University of Melbourne, intends to investigate the effectiveness of smartphone apps and the outcomes of individuals practicing mindfulness meditation on their own.
The study suggests that if individuals are offered an in-person mindfulness course in a group setting with a teacher, they should consider trying it, especially if they are curious about it. For organizations considering offering mindfulness courses to their members, this research indicates that it may be a worthwhile investment if there is interest within the community.
The research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about mindfulness courses
Q: What are mindfulness courses?
A: Mindfulness courses are programs that involve practicing the awareness of the present moment, paying attention on purpose, and nonjudgmentally. These courses often include meditation, body awareness, and elements of modern psychology to reduce stress, improve well-being, and enhance mental and emotional resilience.
Q: How effective are mindfulness courses in reducing anxiety and depression?
A: According to a study conducted by the University of Cambridge, mindfulness courses led by a teacher in a group setting have been found to help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in adults for at least six months. The study analyzed data from 13 trials and concluded that mindfulness-based programs were beneficial irrespective of age, gender, or educational level.
Q: Are mindfulness courses suitable for everyone?
A: While mindfulness courses have shown to be beneficial for many individuals, they may not work for everyone. Research indicates that some people may not experience the same level of benefit from mindfulness courses. It is important to consider individual preferences and needs when choosing a well-being practice.
Q: Are mindfulness apps as effective as in-person mindfulness courses?
A: The effectiveness of mindfulness apps compared to in-person mindfulness courses is still uncertain. The study conducted by the University of Cambridge suggests that there is a larger evidence base supporting the effectiveness of in-person courses with a teacher and group work. Mindfulness apps may be more accessible and cost-effective, but further research is needed to determine their effectiveness in reducing psychological distress.
Q: Can mindfulness courses be offered in workplaces and educational institutions?
A: Yes, the study from the University of Cambridge suggests that offering mindfulness courses in workplaces and educational institutions can be a good investment to promote mental health and prevent the development of mental health problems. In-person, teacher-led programs in a group setting can provide a supportive environment for individuals to benefit from mindfulness practices.
More about mindfulness courses
- University of Cambridge: Study on Mindfulness Courses
- Nature Mental Health: Research Paper on Mindfulness-based Programs